Lobi Stars suffered a slight setback in their relegation fight after they were turned back 3-1 in the grueling 2022 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) week 34 match played on Sunday, June 19 in Ikenne Remo.
Remo Stars took the kick off at 4:05 pm and went straight into business as early as the 6th minute when Junior Nduka released a power packed free kick which was palmed into safety and eventually gathered up by Lobi Stars’ young goalkeeper Emeka Onyia.
Lobi Stars’ response to the early warning fell short as their combative midfielder, Pius Eyigege lost the ball midway in the 9th minute and in attempt to recover from the mistake, fouled an opponent which earned him the first yellow card of the match and freekick to the hosts.
Unrelenting, Remo Stars came close to getting the curtain raiser in the 12th minute when lanky Andy Okpe headed wide a corner kick taken by Abdulrasheed Adeyemi after Moses Tsehuan blocked out Tolulope Ojo’s cross.
Lobi Stars also had their first opportunity in the 17th minute when their highest goal scorer, Ifeanyi Ogba was put through by Francis Odinaka but his shot was stopped by former Lobi Stars’ goalie Emmanuel Daniel without much trouble.
Within the same minute, Lobi Stars got a second chance when Adams Olamilekan’s delivery located Odinaka in a good attacking position but instead of attack the opponents’ goal, returned the ball to Olamilekan whose late arrival resulted into an infringement and a free kick in favour of Remo Stars.
Eventually, another former Lobi Stars prolific goal scorer, Sikiru Alimi, broke the deadlock in the 19th minute when he escaped his marker and unleashed a low drive to the near and impossible post which beat goalkeeper Onyia for the opening goal of the highly entertaining match.
In response, Lobi Stars bullish striker, Utim Godfrey, made one of the last attacking moves of the half when he dribbled past two defenders but his goal bound move was scuttled by foul means yet the referee signaled play on.
Duke Osimaga then fired a fierce strike at Remo’s goal but Daniel had little or no challenge in taming the shot from Utim’s assist in the last minute of the first half regulation time.
And in the 2nd minute of first half added time, Lobi Stars had a God given opportunity to level the scores when experienced defender, John Lazarus found himself unchallenged after Samuel Ganda’s cross beat the whole defence line of Remo Stars but he surprisingly fired his shot over the wood works to bring first half proceedings to a disappointing finish for the ‘Pride of Benue’.
On resumption, super-sub and mercurial Onuwa Chukwuka and ageless Jonah Chukwudi took over from Pius Eyigege and Ifeanyi Ogba who had struggled to find their feet in the first half.
Two minutes into resumption, Remo Stars Andy Okpe who was all over the place trying to wreck havoc against Lobi Stars was stretchered out and replaced by Ifegwu Ojukwu.
Then, a 56th minute pressure on Remo Stars defence from Jonah Chukwudi earned Lobi Stars a corner kick but the resultant kick taken by Olamilekan and energetically headed towards goal by Utim sailed over the cross bar.
The next minute, Olamilekan took control of the ball from the right in 57th minute and characteristically, eliminated three defenders in a bid to make out space for a shot at goal but ended up with a pass to Jonah Chukwudi whose quick shot was blocked with the aid of the hand but the referee felt otherwise and allowed play to continue to the consternation of the visitors.
Meanwhile, Onuwa’s presence on the field created a charged atmosphere for Lobi Stars as one of his quick forward passes to Utim was wrestled into corner kick from where Odinaka’s clinical diving header delivered the much needed equaliser for the goal hungry visitors in the 61st minute.
Unfortunately for Lobi Stars, the Betnaija boys reacted quickly from the goal and shot ahead again through Tolulope Ojo just three minutes later from a sustained pressure on the defence of the “Shoe get size” boys.
The Kunle Soname boys then sealed victory in the 77th minute after an interconnectivity of passes between substitutes produced Lekan Oyedele’s cross which was eventually buried by Samuel Anaekwe.
All efforts by Lobi Stars to get back didn’t yield any fruit as even the late rejigging by Coach Mohammed Baba Ganaru who replaced injured Endurance Ebedebiri and worn out Adams Olamilekan with Solomon Kwambe and Mubarak Sa’id couldn’t make any difference.
As a result of the loss, the “Glory to Glory” boys have dropped from 14th position to 16th with 40 points from 33 completed games and they will head to Jos for the MatchDay 30 half game against Niger Tornadoes on Wednesday.
Lobi Stars Lineup:
Emeka Onyia, John Lazarus, Samuel Ganda, Odinaka Francis, Moses Tsehuan, Endurance Ebedebiri (Solomon Kwambe 88″), Ogba Ifeanyi (Jonah Chukwudi HT), Pius Eyigege (Onuwa Chukwuka HT), Duke Osimaga (Onyebuchi Onyeaka 68″), Utim Godfrey, Olamilekan Adams (Adams Olamilekan 88″).
Sikiru Alimi 19″ (Remo), Francis Odinaka 61″ (Lobi), Tolulope Ojo 64″ (Remo), Samuel Anaekwe 77″ (Remo).
Pius Eyigege 9″, John Lazarus 71″